Kristin Moan couldn't look. Not yet. She'd waited years to become a mother. But then her daughters came too soon — born four months early, at 23 weeks, six days. The girls were tiny — Dylan weighed just 1 pound 3 ounces; Hayden, 1 pound 7 ounces. They were not much bigger than four sticks of butter, and Kristin was afraid to look. "How could you even imagine a one-pound baby?" she says. "It was almost too much."
Kristin had been having a "seemingly normal" pregnancy until the day her daughters were born. That day, she began having pain that would eventually lead her and her husband, Eric, to the emergency department in Maple Grove, Minnesota. That's where doctors discovered Kristin had a placental abruption and would need to deliver Dylan and Hayden immediately.
The girls' early arrival thrust the Moans into the frightening, unfamiliar world of the neonatal intensive care unit. While orienting the couple to their daughters' new home, a nurse suggested they buy a stuffed animal to include in photos tracking the girls' growth. Instead, Eric bought Mrs. Potato Head dolls. Their size would be familiar to anyone, he thought, and — more importantly — they could be sanitized. "We took weekly photos of the girls with the dolls and shared them with our family and friends," Kristin says. "It gave people a way to see their growth."
The Moans didn't know it then, but they'd just given birth to something else — The Potato Head Project.
This story originally appeared on the In the Loop blog.